Cancer now 'leading cause of death' in rich countries

Cancer is Now the #1 Killer in Developed Countries

Cancer is Now the #1 Killer in Developed Countries

Research by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, looked at around 10 years' worth of health records for 163,000 people between the ages of 35 and 70 in 21 countries across five continents.

Heart disease still claims the lives of more people globally, but in more affluent nations it has now ceded its place as the leading killer to cancer, a major new report finds.

While in high income countries, death from cancer is twice that of CVD, in low income countries, including India, death from cardiac disease was three times that of cancer. (Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters) In high-income countries, common treatment with cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-pressure medicines have helped bring rates of heart disease down dramatically in the past few decades. It was estimated that 55 million deaths occurred in the world in 2017, of which approximately 17·7 million were due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) [see infographic 1].

Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said "huge progress" meant many people were surviving heart attacks and strokes but growing numbers were living with "disability and the debilitating after effects" of cardiovascular disease. "If that happens, we might also expect that cancer will become relatively more common as a cause of death". Overall, mortality rates were twice as high in poorer countries compared with mid-income nations, and four times higher in poorer countries compared with high-income nations, though rates of deaths from cancer were similar across all country income levels.

'The high mortality in poorer countries is not due to a higher burden of risk factors, but likely other factors including lower quality and less health care'.

These included diet, behavioural and socioeconomic factors, they said.

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However, the relative importance of risk factors for CVD cases and death varied widely between countries at different stages of economic development.

Authors suggested that higher CVD related mortality in LIC may be mainly due to lower quality of healthcare, given that the report found first hospitalisation rates and CVD medication use to be both substantially lower in LIC and MIC, compared with in HIC.

Darryl Leong, the co-lead author of the study, and assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University, said: "The implications are that in HIC, while continued efforts to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease should continue, new efforts to reduce cancer are required". Global health policies should be adapted to different groups of countries based on factors such as the expected benefit and access to health care.

He said his team's study showed that cancer was the second most common cause of death globally in 2017, accounting for just over a quarter (26 percent) of all deaths.

"Despite these limitations, Stephanie Read, PhD, and Sarah Wild, PhD, both from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, wrote in a linked comment, "[These] findings can inform the effective use of limited resources - for example, by indicating the importance of improving education across the world and improving diet and reducing household air pollution in less developed countries. Middle-income countries consisted of Iran, South Africa, Philippines, Colombia, China, Brazil, Malaysia, Turkey, Poland, Argentina and Chile.

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